October 22, 2020
5 Best Port Wine Substitutions for Cooking
Looking for a port wine substitution? Read on.
Cooking with wine has been popular for ages. Whether used as a cooking liquid, a type of flavoring or used in a marinade, wine has a varied range of functions in the culinary world.
Not only does it work to intensify the flavors and aroma of food, it can also highlight particular elements within a dish. At times, its sweetness and acidity work to cut through the richness of a dish. It also goes without saying that wine is perfect for sipping – even while cooking your meal.
Port wine makes a common addition to many dishes. The only downside to cooking with it is that most home cooks don’t normally have port wine on hand. They do, however, have access to other types of wine or substitutes that can make great alternatives to port.
If a recipe or gathering calls for port wine and you don’t have it, fret not. Try some of these port wine substitutes – you may even find some already hiding in your wine cellar.
What Is Port Wine?
Port wine is a type of fortified wine made in Portugal. The name reportedly comes from Porto, the coastal city, while the Douro Valley only produces authentic port wines.
Fortified wine means alcohol is added during the aging process leaving it with a higher alcohol percentage. While most wines clock in at 12.5% to 14.5%, port wines contain alcohol levels of around 17% to 20% due to the addition of brandy.
Port wine is normally consumed as an aperitif or as a dessert wine thanks to its sweet and rich nature.
There are four main types of Port, including ruby, tawny, white, and vintage. Its flavors can range from berries to chocolate, caramel, and spices. Depending on the maker and the mix, port can also take on flavors of dried fruit and wood.
Despite being a sweeter type of wine, port typically doesn’t have high acidity. However, tawny port or lighter-hued ports have some brightness to counter the sweet flavor.
Many pair them with soft cheeses, desserts such as milk chocolate or cheesecakes, pies, chocolate truffles, and much more.
Best Port Wine Substitution
As mentioned, port wine tastes sweet and fruity with a full-bodied nature. Chianti is similar to port in this way. Besides maintaining a sweet and fruity taste, Chianti also boasts a note of cherry.
In cooking, however, many chefs frown at using Chianti because it can be a bit too dry compared to port.
Plus, Chianti contains a higher percentage of acidity, so it will certainly make its presence known, especially in dishes where fat is prevalent. To prevent this, lessen the amount of Chianti you use and taste as you go.
Another great substitute for ruby port is Merlot. This type of wine takes pride in its equally bright and fruity notes similar to that of port. Additionally, it has hints of plum and a smooth, rich, velvety layer to complement the drink.
Due to Merlot’s full-bodied nature, it makes for a good addition in lamb or beef-based dishes, as well as tomato sauce or slow-cooking dishes such as stews. Plus, it tastes best with dark meat.
Zinfandel is a type of light red wine that errs on the fruity side. In fact, the most notable flavors include cherry, raspberry, and even nectarines, making for a heady combination you won’t want to miss.
Zinfandel can substitute port in poultry dishes as well as casseroles and can stand on its own as a dessert for that sweet ending. However, it has a lower alcohol content and is dry, so avoid using it in sauces.
Shiraz is definitely known as a fruity wine which is why you won’t go wrong with this port wine substitute. Though commonly confused with syrah as both come from the same type of grape, Shiraz is actually darker with spicy overtones.
It includes notes of black pepper as well as fruit flavors as its base, making it a reliable alternative for stews and other dishes made of dark meat. Shiraz also comes with a hint of wood similar to port due to its aging process.
Broth or Stock
For most dishes that call for wine, replacing port with chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or bouillon can work as well – but only for meat-based dishes as it can significantly alter the taste and appearance of a dessert.
The Bottom Line
Port wine’s depth of flavor is simply unparalleled, which is why finding a substitute can be tricky. However, in a pinch, you can use the above-mentioned items to get your dish going.
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